Thursday, December 02, 2021

Mendoza: Fairy tale Fernandez strikes again

All Write

The fairy tale tick tingles on.

Leylah Fernandez chopped down another former champion, a day before turning 19.

She did it spectacularly again, bucking a first-set loss to outlast Germany’s Angelique Kerber, 4-6, 7-6, 6-2, in Round 4 of the 141st U.S. Open at Flushing Meadows, New York City.

Just two days before, Fernandez, the sensational Fil-Canadian ranked 73rd, also dropped the opening set in dethroning Japan’s Naomi Osaka in the third round, 5-7, 7-6, 6-4.

Before the back-to-back, three-set thrillers, Fernandez won her first two matches in straight sets—over Serbia’s Ana Konjuh, 7-6, 6-2, and Estonia’s Kaia Kanepi, 7-5, 7-5.

Her second straight win in three sets seemed to put Fernandez on a pedestal reserved for veterans.

How many teenagers can have the fortitude to rise from an opening-set loss, and against certified Grand Slam champions at that?

Osaka, 23, the world’s highest paid female athlete, was a four-time major champion when she met her match in Fernandez.

Kerber was superbly recalling her old form that made her the 2016 U.S. Open champion and world No. 1 when she faced Fernandez.

But after Kerber, 33, took the first set, she would next run into a wall looking tougher than the Great Wall of China. And this was against a teenager in Fernandez that was 14 years her junior.

After losing the first set, Fernandez, whose mother, Irene, is the daughter of Filipino immigrants to Canada and who is married to an Ecuadorian soccer player, dug deep from her cherished past.

“From a very young age, I knew I was able to beat anyone,” said Fernandez after ousting Osaka in Round 3. “I guess that belief came true.”

It came true again.

Right after Kerber won the first set, Fernandez looked to her box and said, “You know what, I’m all good.”

You have a kid with that kind of confidence, you are looking at a future star. For she sure knows that for every battle to be won, it must first be won in the mind. Every sport has that paradigm.

Against Osaka, Fernandez had a 78-percent accuracy in her first serves. She used that weapon again, hitting 71 percent first serves in beating Kerber.

Fernandez next faces Ukraine’s Elina Svitolina, who advanced to the Round of 16 after defeating former majors champion Simona Halep.

“She’s a fighter,” said Fernandez of Svitolina, who turns 27 on Sept. 12. “But I’ll just have fun there again.”

Cinderella’s clock a-ticking—dramatically.


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